Unplugged (Music - Mariah Carey)

For reasons even her record company cannot plausibly explain, Mariah Carey — except for occasional sheltered appearances at award shows — never sings live. So maybe her May 20 telecast on MTV Unplugged, which this new EP documents, was planned as a substitute for the album-promoting tour that any other star would mount. Reinforced by a small army of backup singers and acoustic instrumentalists, she ran through hits from both her albums, and introduced one not-at-all-risky novelty, her eagerly polished version of the Jackson 5’s adorable 1970 smash ”I’ll Be There.” Less predictably, Carey sang the entire show with something approaching real guts, which makes the Unplugged EP the strongest, most genuinely musical record she has ever made. Oh, the elaborate acoustic accompaniments (and especially the gospel-style backup singing) make her sound as if she’s at a costume party, dressed up as some R&B legend from the past. But there’s life inside the packaging, especially when she and her backup gang whip so much fire into ”If It’s Over” that the song almost levitates. On her albums Mariah comes off as vocally phenomenal — and artistically little more than a kid. Did this live performance help her take her first steps toward growing up? B+

Unplugged (Music - Mariah Carey)
  • Music